Facebook Faces More Opposition on Proposed User Privacy Changes

By Todd R. Weiss  |  Posted 2012-11-29 Print this article Print

Instead, Facebook proposes that it will replace the voting system with a better system of direct feedback and comment to corporate officers, including the chief privacy officer, and through a series of live Webcasts, where comments and concerns about privacy, safety and security can be discussed.

When the original idea of voting on proposed changes was established several years ago, Facebook was a small private company with some 200 million users, the spokesman said. There have been two policy change votes so far—in April of 2009 and last June—and neither garnered enough votes to stop the changes. Only 342,000 out of a billion users voted in June.

"That's a great example of why we want to make the changes," the spokesman said.

Meanwhile, the proposal to change how users can block communications from other users would replace the current system with improved features that would be more effective, according to Facebook. The proposal is not to remove the controls but to upgrade them, the spokesman said. "You will still be able to block senders and manage which messages you see in your inbox," he said.

The proposal to allow the sharing of user information with Facebook affiliates has also come under loud criticism. In April, Facebook acquired Instagram, which presently doesn't share user information with Facebook. That potentially could change in the future if the user policies are modified.

The one-week comment period on the latest proposed user policy changes ended Nov. 28. Final votes and actions on the proposals are expected to come soon though no date has been set for any decisions.

Justin Brookman, director of consumer privacy with The Center for Democracy & Technology, said the Facebook proposal he is most concerned about is the one regarding the sharing of information with affiliates. "They don't have that many affiliates now, but they have Instagram," he told eWEEK. "People signed up for Instagram and didn't think they were signing up for Facebook. They are not merging that information now, but if they did, that might infringe on user's expectations."

Brookman said it’s a possibility worth watching in the future. "It's about users having choices about how their information is used."

Mark Jacobs, the consumer protection counsel with EPIC, said that Facebook could ultimately have to modify some of these latest proposals to meet laws in European nations. Facebook has its European headquarters in Ireland, he said, and has to meet the rules of the Irish Data Protection Commissioner there on behalf of the European Union.


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